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Post by CanuckBob on Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:31 pm

I get e-mails from International Living and right now they are pushing San Miguel. Here is what they had to say:

International Living Postcards—your daily escape
Friday, July 22, 2011

Dear International Living Reader,

A cityscape of tiled rooftops, gaily-colored colonial buildings and cobbled streets…it's easy to see why 10,000 people have already made the big move into expat life in San Miguel de Allende.

The combination of stunningly beautiful, centuries-old architecture with modern amenities on tap has seen this charming colonial town become a magnet for overseas residents.

But if you think that means San Miguel is pricey...guess again. With Glynna as your guide, below, a home in this part of romantic, historic Mexico costs far less than you might think.

Take it away Glynna…

Len Galvin
Managing Editor, IL Postcards

P.S. For three days only, from today, you can try a subscription to IL magazine for the lowest ever price—just $1. (That's not a misprint...one dollar.) Full details here.

* * *

Colonial Mexico's Worst-kept Secret
By Glynna Prentice


Strolling the streets of this mountain town—which dates back to the 16th century—it's easy to see why as many as 10,000 expats choose to live here full- or part-time. San Miguel offers romantic, historic Mexico at its most approachable. Physically beautiful and centuries old, yet offering every modern amenity, this colonial gem offers one of the easiest transitions to expat life you can find anywhere. Hands down.

Colonial buildings, lovingly restored, line the town's main streets, and beautiful churches and squares are around every corner. But you also find excellent restaurants, superb arts and crafts, and a temperate climate that's hard to beat.

You can get by with English here thanks to tourism and the large expat presence. There's even a Mexican immigration office in town for processing expat visas.

For its size (population about 80,000), it's possibly the most sophisticated city in Mexico.

Artist Lena Bartula, who moved to San Miguel after almost five years in nearby Mineral de Pozos, cites the mix of modern and traditional as one of San Miguel's attractions. She calls the town "an intriguing blend of serious and fun."

San Miguel feels like a resort town along the lines of Sedona, Arizona, or Taos, New Mexico, and if you like that atmosphere, you'll love San Miguel. Like Sedona and Taos, San Miguel is a great place for artists: painters, sculptors, writers and everyone in between. Established artists settle here, and others—inspired by Mexican motifs—begin their art career after moving here.

These days it's more affordable to buy there than you might think. There are plenty of properties for sale and prices have softened due to the long recession in the U.S. (Much of San Miguel's higher-end real estate market depends on U.S. buyers.)

Don't get me wrong; you're unlikely to find fire sales here. And you'll need deep pockets if you want a large property in the historic center. The price tag for large dream-worthy colonials on streets like Barranca still runs into the millions of dollars. But you don't have to spend anywhere near that much. Homes well under $200,000 are available within an easy walking distance of the center.

Right now, for instance, you can get a four-bedroom, two-bath house that's about a 15-minute walk from the center for $110,000. It's an older home and will need some updating, but all the basics are there. If you don't want to renovate, what about a fully-furnished, 1,700-square-foot home, with four bedrooms and two baths? One is selling for just $127,000. And it's only a 10-minute walk from Parque Juárez, in the historic center.

Renting is easy, too. A quick Internet will turn up dozens of entries. If you'd like to try San Miguel out for a while, consider a short-term rental: Two-bedroom, two- or three-bath furnished properties start at about $400 a week.

See the current issue of International Living magazine to read my full colonial Mexico story...including full contact details for these properties...plus the low down other colonial Mexican gems. With this special link you can try IL magazine for $1...and get instant access to the current issue.

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Post by ferret on Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:56 pm

I have learned to be wary of anything that International Living is promoting. They usually have property that they want to sell in the area they're promoting.
San Miguel IS a wonderful place to live. It changed a lot in the nine years that we lived there and is probably even more Americanized in the six years since we left. Lots of traffic with few places to park. People will still fall in love with it...there is a lot to love especially if you are younger and fairly mobile.
Definitely worth a look see...
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Post by gringal on Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:33 pm

I lived there for three years before finding the altitude a problem and moving to Ajijic.
Don't be fooled by the hype. It's a very picturesque place but it is in the bowl of an extinct volcano surrounded by mountains. The air is not good. It is much colder in the winter. It freezes. Dining out is an expensive proposition, compared to Lakeside. It is a tourist destination for folks from D. F. every weekend. The traffic is beyond belief. Basically, it's a tourist destination. The only decent prices are homes well out of Centro.
Visit and rent for awhile.

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Post by Parker on Fri Jul 22, 2011 11:05 pm

We’ve visited twice just to make sure we weren’t missing something and will probably visit again (because others want to check it out), but this to us is nothing more than an over-rated tourist trap. (I believe years have spoiled this place,) Guanajuato would be our second place of choice, give it a-look-see.

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Post by locogringo on Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:44 am

It is pretty much a given that International Living only promotes areas that the local realtors pay them to push. They did that lakeside years ago.
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Post by gringal on Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:25 am

Parker wrote:We’ve visited twice just to make sure we weren’t missing something and will probably visit again (because others want to check it out), but this to us is nothing more than an over-rated tourist trap. (I believe years have spoiled this place,) Guanajuato would be our second place of choice, give it a-look-see.

Guanajuato is vertical real estate. Lots of lovely steep hills. Higher altitude than San Miguel and even colder in the winter.
Other than that, it's beautiful and a fine cultural center.

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Post by hound dog on Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:20 pm

We were there a couple of years ago maybe three, in February, it was freezing cold and rainy the whole time we were there and the traffic was awful. I will never forget the sirens of an ambulance being stuck in the traffic in one of the tunnels.
We could not move and the noise was torture.
Other than than it is a beautiful hilly city!
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Post by CheenaGringo on Mon Sep 05, 2011 11:40 am

We visited San Miguel de Allende two years ago and since we were only there an afternoon and an evening, our initial impression was incomplete and any opinions we thought we had made weren't valid. When planning our trip this year, we knew we had a couple of days work to do in Dolores Hidalgo and that there weren't any hotels we care to stay in. So we decided upon three nights in San Miguel and working Dolores Hidalgo from there since it is only a 20 to 25 minute drive.

Having read a recent article in the Mexican media that stated tourism was down 70% in he region over the past four years, I kind of expected to see a city that had been set on its heels. To a certain degree, we did see some evidence that this was the case. Granted it was the öff season" but there were many shops and restaurants that weren't even bothering to open their doors with any consistency. Kathy visited the Mercado de Artisanias and versus two years ago, at least half of the shops were either vacant or closed. There is no question that the economy of this city is based upon tourism and the Gringos and neither seems to be supporting it at the current time. We would have expected hotel prices to be lower and the same in restaurants but it didn't seem to be the case. Maybe the prevailing wisdom is that: "one keeps prices high or even raise them to offset the reduced customer base"?

One afternoon, I decided to get a grip on the layout of the streets and how to get around the city. With all of the very narrow one way streets, it was somewhat of a challenge but at least I now feel that we can enter the city from most any direction and find our way around. It also gave us the opportunity to experience the uniqueness and the beauty of the city.

Slideshow: https://picasaweb.google.com/118146709599975173363/SANMIGUELDeALLENDEGTOMEXICO#slideshow/5548766081294175266

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Post by CanuckBob on Tue May 08, 2012 5:41 pm

We just got back from 3 days in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. We were thoroughly impressed. Great restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

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Post by coffeeguy on Sun Aug 12, 2012 9:20 pm

We're former Lakeside residents, currently living in San Miguel, and might very well return to Lakeside at some point. IMHO one has to spend weeks if not months in both places to get any sort of idea of the plusses and minuses. San Miguel in particular being a much larger and more cosmopolitan place takes a lot of time to get to know.

Regarding Gringal's comments, San Miguel is much cheaper than Lakeside for the following things: local (i.e. real Mexican) food - both cooked and raw ingredients, taxis (25 pesos and they're everywhere) and rents as a percentage of property value (i.e. rents are the same or less than Lakeside, for houses that start at double the average Lakeside values).

I've been keeping a blog during the time we've lived in San Miguel, in case of interest, and tried to track the good and bad as we've experienced it. Here's the link:

http://serendipitymexico.blogspot.mx

IMHO Lakeside, San Miguel and the city of Oaxaca are probably the best long-term choices for expats (other than those rare few with fluent Spanish and a deep desire to fully "go native"). It's good to keep one's options open and have a plan B and C location in mind, whether for visits or to live.

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Post by johninajijic on Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:32 am

coffeeguy - It's different strokes for different folks. We visited San Miguel for nearly a week about 8 years ago. Our impression: a beautiful city, nice park in centro, lots of waaaay overpriced shops that wouldn't bargain, and overpriced tourist restaurants with prices equalling PV and the US. Beautiful restaurants though.

The weather in San Miguel cannot compare to Lakeside. I took a group of people around to see different gardens in Ajijic as a return favor because we were there for the flower show years ago. It was in September and the women were worried about getting back to cover precious plants for a "frost" in September!!!

We took a house tour, ALL waaaay overpriced compared to Lakeside. Our house would be worth 1.5 mil there. We saw a small house, approx 1500 sq ft, just redone by a decorator on a postage stamp size lot far from centro for over 1 million. This gal and the real estate there was nuts.
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Post by CanuckBob on Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:37 am

Things have changed dramatically in San Miguel since 8 years ago. Like the Lake, SM has been slammed with depressed real estate prices and a downturn in tourism and immigration. Having just visited there a few months ago I can say that the real estate is actually less than a comparable at the lake and the restaurant prices were about the same. The only big difference I noted was that the population didn't seem scared to go out at night.
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Post by binky on Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:46 am

It's a great place to visit. It is indeed pricier to buy there and far more diffiucult to get to via plane (almost 2 hour drive from Leon to San Miguel).

Here I can easily walk Seis Esquinas to San Antonio and all points in between. For those who don't like the cobbles, there's the smooth Ajijic malecon for exercising. Walking around Ajjijic is a joy.

Not so in San Miguel....it's a large city with a large population. The sidewalks there are very narrow, single file with high curbs. And the streets are car congested. Soooooo, everytime you see another pedestrian coming your way, one of you has to step off the high curb, into traffic (and hope for the best).

That's ok for visits, but for me, a walker, not a good year round place. And the weather....they can have very cold winters, not always, but it's a reality that the Lakeside weather is far better year round.
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Post by CanuckBob on Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:49 am

Pricier???? Have you been to SMA lately?
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Post by binky on Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:25 am

CanuckBob wrote:Pricier???? Have you been to SMA lately?

I was there earlier this summer (I visit annually). And I saw some of the SAME houses that are still for sale that were for sale in 2008 (we looked there before settling here). Yes, the prices have come down....but only a bit.

In fairness to the equation, many SMA properties are on average larger than Lakeside properties. Here, the avg. is a 2BR 2.5BA; in SMA they tend to be at least 3BR 3BA. But when you compare apples to apples, a 2BR here v. a 2BR there, SMA's properties are at least 25% higher now, just the same as they were in 2008 when we were house shopping in both communities. House prices have fallen nearly world-wide; but between here and SMA the margin of difference remains the same.
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Post by gringal on Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:56 am

As a person with property currently going up for sale in SMA, I'd like to point out the really huge difference between SMA property costs in the Centro area and that in the surrounding colonias, unlike the differences between Ajijic Centro and the outlying areas.

Some realtors will tell visitors that you can't get anything livable for under 500K, which is total b.s. Under 200K or even at 150K, you can buy a newer, roomy house in SMA, some with fine views. We bought from the builder back in 2004 in that price range and enjoyed walking to downtown with its restaurants and events. The walk back (uphill) wasn't quite as easy, but taxis are everywhere, and cheap.

We'd still be there except for the high altitude....not good for me. However, I like Lakeside better on general principles and am glad we moved.

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Post by johninajijic on Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:57 am

binky wrote:It's a great place to visit. It is indeed pricier to buy there and far more diffiucult to get to via plane (almost 2 hour drive from Leon to San Miguel).

Here I can easily walk Seis Esquinas to San Antonio and all points in between. For those who don't like the cobbles, there's the smooth Ajijic malecon for exercising. Walking around Ajjijic is a joy.

Not so in San Miguel....it's a large city with a large population. The sidewalks there are very narrow, single file with high curbs. And the streets are car congested. Soooooo, everytime you see another pedestrian coming your way, one of you has to step off the high curb, into traffic (and hope for the best).

That's ok for visits, but for me, a walker, not a good year round place. And the weather....they can have very

Totally agree. We're 25 minutes from an Int'l airport. How close and how many are the hospitals in San Miguel? We have at least 20 + hospitals in GDL.
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Post by gringal on Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:04 am

Queretaro is closer to San Miguel than Guadalajara is to Lakeside. There are fine hospitals in Queretaro, and at least one hospital in SMA itself. There is a newer airport, though not as large as Leon, in Queretaro as well.

If you can make it to the airport from your place in 25 minutes, John.....you're doing it on a good day, and driving way too fast .
Shocked

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Post by coffeeguy on Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:33 pm

Two good hospitals in San Miguel proper, plus excellent ones in Queretaro so in the event of an emergency you're far better off here than Lakeside as far as that goes.

The airport access issue is a valid concern, though for those who fly infrequently you can't beat the fares out of D.F. both internationally and domestically.

We're younger retirees and thought we'd like San Miguel's amenities and pace better than Lakeside. We love the variety of restaurants, bakeries, music, etc. but it is intensely urban here and the pollution not just from cars but from brick ovens south of town is a much more serious issue than some SMA-booster friends led us to believe. Check out this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISqd85i88tw&feature=youtu.be

Our conclusion: if you want what this place has, you'd better plan to live well out of centro and drive in occasionally, or be a very part-time resident or visitor. Otherwise we prefer Lakeside (and San Cristobal de las Casas, Oaxaca, etc.). YMMV of course.


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Post by gringal on Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:44 pm

There's quite a kerfuffle going on the Civil List in SMA and others about the air pollution from burning tires, plastic and other substances in the brick ovens around the area. The politicos and real estate interests want to shush it up, but the issue isn't going away. One element is concerned about the social issue, as in "they're only trying to feed their families" while the other is concerned with the general welfare of the population. Meanwhile, nothing is being done.


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Post by johninajijic on Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:24 pm

gringal wrote:Queretaro is closer to San Miguel than Guadalajara is to Lakeside. There are fine hospitals in Queretaro, and at least one hospital in SMA itself. There is a newer airport, though not as large as Leon, in Queretaro as well.

If you can make it to the airport from your place in 25 minutes, John.....you're doing it on a good day, and driving way too fast .
Shocked

I usually make it in 30 minutes and never hit traffic, driving at 65 - 70 mph is not too fast. The nutsos pass me at 80 - 90 mph. I make Costco in 45 - 50 minutes depending on traffic. It's approx 48 miles.

I think the opinions of both Lakeside and San Miguel will be discussed forever, like politics.
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Post by coffeeguy on Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:46 pm

gringal wrote:There's quite a kerfuffle going on the Civil List in SMA and others about the air pollution from burning tires, plastic and other substances in the brick ovens around the area. The politicos and real estate interests want to shush it up, but the issue isn't going away. One element is concerned about the social issue, as in "they're only trying to feed their families" while the other is concerned with the general welfare of the population. Meanwhile, nothing is being done.


Yes, Gringal - such a kerfuffle that the Snivel List (as it's locally known - with good reason) has banned further discussion resulting in the creation of yet another Yahoo group dedicated just to the brick oven issue. UNESCO has been contacted and the threat of having its World Heritage Site status might result in some action, but I wouldn't hold my breath (or rather, I would, since I'm still living in SMA at the moment).

The pollution issues are real - even without the brick ovens- as you have been wisely pointing out for some time. I wish I had paid more attention. We've seen a lot of interest in San Miguel after the May incidents at Lakeside, but IMHO there'a a big difference between risk of that kind of tragic incident and 24/7 exposure to truly dangerous pollutants.

San Miguel is now THE playground of rich Mexicans, from a huge area: D.F., Monterrey, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi and beyond. They're the ones that are buying homes now, and taking over the city on weekends. When and if the noxious fumes become an issue for them and their home values, I suspect something will be done.

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Post by gringal on Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:59 pm


You got it right, Coffeeguy. It will take pressure from the "thousand families" to change the air.

As far as crime is concerned, there was plenty of it there, too.......but it didn't get reported as it is around Lakeside. The reality was only mentioned on the grapevine.

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